Obeid associate ‘told to lie’ to journalist

Eddie Obeid … associate “told to lie” to journalist.The Obeid family instructed an associate to lie to The Sydney Morning Herald, a corruption inquiry has heard.
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Justin Kennedy Lewis, who runs the courier company Yellow Express, told the Independent Commission Against Corruption that when he received an email from the Herald journalist Anne Davies in May 2010, he took it straight to the Obeids’ business headquarters at Birkenhead Point in Sydney.

The sons of the ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid, at the time a member of the upper house, took it upon themselves to lie to Ms Davies.

“There’s a few truths in there, and a couple of lies as well,” he said of his emailed reply.

Mr Lewis told the ICAC that the Obeids instructed Mr Lewis to say that he did not know there was coal under his property when he purchased it in 2008.

Giving evidence today, Davies said that when she rang Eddie Obeid in 2010 while researching her article, Mr Obeid said that if he had known there was going to be an exploration licence over his property in Bylong, “I wouldn’t have bought it”.

His son Moses Obeid told Davies the family was intending to “fight off” the potential coal miners The inquiry has heard Mr Lewis bought his property in November 2008 for $3.5 million but on the same day, he was entering into a deal with the Obeids to on-sell it to a coal mining company for $17 million.

When asked why he had agreed to give the Obeids 30 per cent of the profit from the sale, he replied: “If they made me a whole bunch of money, I’d be happy to give them an earn.”

The commission is examining the circumstances under which the Obeid family used inside information from a government coal licence tender to enrich themselves to the tune of $100 million.

Evidence has been given that the Obeids and two of their associates, including Mr Lewis, bought farms in the Bylong Valley knowing that Mr Obeid’s colleague Ian Macdonald, the then mining minister, was going to announce a coal licence over their properties.

Mr Lewis admitted today that he did have prior knowledge from the Obeids that there might be a coal licence granted over the land. However, he maintained that his primary interest was still farming. Mr Lewis prompted laughter when he was asked about the kind of cattle he wanted to run on his Bylong property. The kind that “walk around and eat grass”, he said. And of farming in general, he offered: “To my way of thinking, how hard could it be?”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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